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Springtime in Paris: A New Generation of French Names

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By Pamela Redmond Satran

There’s a new generation of names popular in Paris, all fresh and chic-sounding beyond the French borders.  Will they translate to the English-speaking world?  The Francophiles among us might like to try.

These names are widely used in contemporary France and might make exotic choices for a baby in Los Angeles or London.

girls

Amandine – The French Amanda, John Malkovich introduced this lovely name to the wider world when he used this for his now-grown daughter.

Apolline – The Apollo relative was used by J.K. Rowling for a Frenchified character.

Capucine – Once associated with a hypersexy French actress, this ancient name is newly chic.

Clemence – Actress Clemence Poesy has popularized this French version of our Clementine, pronounced clay-mahns.

Faustine – Most English-speakers would pronounce the first syllable with an “ow” sound, as in house, but in France they pronounce it to rhyme with frost or cost: much prettier.

Lilou – This pet form of the Lilian family of names stems from Occitan, a language spoken in Provence, and is pronounce lee-loo.

Maelys – The feminine form of the Breton saint’s name Mael, Maelys usually takes a dipthong over the e – which can be challenging to enforce.  The first syllable may be pronounced like mail or can be forced into two syllables – mah-el – and the dominant second syllable may end with either an s or a z sound: mayl-EESE, mah-el-EEZ, or something in between.

Manon – A diminutive of Marie, Manon can be a fresh way to honor Grandma Mary.  Homeland actor Damian Lewis has a daughter named Manon.

Romane – Part of the Roman family, pronunciation is row-men, with equal emphasis on each syllable.

Solene – This relative of Solange is pronounced so-LEHN.

Victoire – Another name used in Harry Potter, this French twist freshens up Victoria – though the veek-twahr pronunciation may be challenging.

boys

Baptiste – Stylish in Paris though may feel a bit old-school religious for many outside of France.

Bastien – Sebastian has been in the Top 100 in the U.S. for over a decade, but Bastien both simplifies it and makes it newer.

Corentin – Corentin is an ancient saint’s name very popular in France but virtually unknown beyond.  Pronunciation is cor-en-TAN.

JulesOne of the simplest of the fashionable French names, Jules might be a newer way to say Julian.

Marius – Marius is one of those names that feels familiar and exotic at the same time.  Much chicer than Italian cousin Mario.

Mathis — Very popular in France and pronounced mah-TEES like the painter, this name may update or honor Matthew.

Maxime and Maxence – Looking for a fresh route to Max?  Consider one of these French long forms.

Thibault – Cool but pronunciation challenged: It’s tee-bo.

 

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